eBay tests most complicated feedback form ever

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eBay have again been testing some changes to the feedback that buyers leave for sellers. There are several variations of the form which “a small proportion” of buyers see: one of the variations has been posted on Flickr by eBay Ink.

Based on the four areas currently covered by the DSR stars, it asks buyers if they are happy (yes or no) with delivery time, shipping costs, packaging and the correlation of description to the actual item, and asks them to comment on each aspect of the transaction. They can then score from 1 to 10 how likely they are to recommend the seller to a friend or colleague. As part of the testing process, buyers then get the option to also leave conventional feedback (if they really have nothing better to do than fill out forms for eBay).

Obviously, I don’t have access to the data these tests are collecting. My only knowledge of buyers on eBay comes from have dealt with more than 50,000 of them over the last decade, and from being one myself. So this is just my opinion:

This form is absolutely unworkable. One thing eBay will be looking at with this test is response rate. I’ll bet they’ll get a reasonable response rate, and at some point, when they implement this form or something like it, they’ll say “buyers like this form, look at the great response rate!” The problem is that response rate in a test, when you know you’re getting a sneaky peek at something new, isn’t the same as response rate when you have to fill out a dozen or fifty of these damn forms because you’ve been on an eBay shopping spree. Who would fill out more than one? Very, very few buyers, would be my guess.

The only people who will use this – and yes, I know I say this about every feedback change, because I believe this is the way that feedback’s going – are the people who are unhappy. I know myself, I can’t be bothered to leave feedback when I’ve bought my thing, paid for my thing and got my thing: that’s just what I expect to happen on an ecommerce website! What I *don’t* expect to happen on an ecommerce website, is that I have to complete a census form every time I buy a three quid packet of beads. If I were a newbie and thought I *had* to leave feedback (as many do), I wouldn’t bother coming back.

In eBay’s desire to pander to a small but very vocal minority of buyers who want to be able to complain more and more specifically, they risk alienating the vast majority of buyers who just want to shop. Is eBay an ecommerce site or a feedback site, because there are times when I just can’t tell these days.

Feedback was invented, in Pierre Omidyar’s words, to drive out the dishonest. As eBay and PayPal have become more actively involved in transactions, the importance of feedback for “buyer protection” has dropped to almost nil. If you don’t have your item, eBay and PayPal will refund you if your seller won’t. If your item isn’t as described, eBay and PayPal will refund you if your seller won’t. How is leaving non-positive feedback going to help you in either of those situations? You might be warning the next guy, sure, but as we all know from seeing poorly-performing sellers with huge eBay businesses, buyers don’t often read feedback. Given that, feedback becomes more and more redundant: let’s make it so.

If I were up for Stephanie Tilenius’ recently vacated job (and surely only the fact that she’s not being replaced precludes my hiring), I’d be looking to streamline feedback. eBay sellers have some of the highest customer satisfaction rates on the planet: name me another industry where 98% is considered low? Let’s celebrate that. Let’s encourage that. Rather than making it all about the complaints, let’s make it easier for people to express happiness with their sellers – how about a “one-click A+++” button, that leaves a positive feedback and four 5-star DSRs in one go? Happy buyers can click that; anyone else can click an “I want to leave detailed feedback” button, and get the four areas to score individually. That way, those who have something to say can say it, and those who don’t can praise their seller without it taking up half their day.

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